Five Ways to Improve Student Editing

24 August 2016 / 1 comment
Revising and editing are hands-down the most difficult part of the writing process for my students. I get it. When I am finished doing something, I rarely like going back to fix it. However, I found that one of the reasons that my students did not like editing, was because they really didn't see the point in it. They had a hard time picking out the errors. But, editing is necessary for great writing pieces.  Here are a few things that I've done in my classroom to help my kids get better at editing.

Change Their Mindset

A lot of students are reluctant to revise and edit their work because they feel like they are having to go back to "fix mistakes".  Instead of thinking of editing as righting all of the wrongs, it is important to make it clear that revising and editing turn good writing pieces into great writing pieces.  Something I need to continue to work on is changing my own language from "let's fix our writing pieces" to "let's make our writing pieces better".


Word Work Fun--and a Freebie!!

22 August 2016 / Leave a Comment

Today is our first day of school and I am so excited to be starting my 31st year of teaching.
I can't wait to get started with my new batch of kiddos.
This month we will be focusing on Words so it seems like a perfect time to discuss
one of our favorite stations in the guided reading rotation---
The Word Work Station!
Second graders still need lots of hands on activities to reinforce and retain words and meanings.
I like to give them lots of choices to keep them interested.

The first one I'd like to highlight is from the one and only Kathy Law.  I've been using her products for years now.  My kids love her Slides and Ladders vowel games and play them often at the word work station.

Next, is my Vocabulary Roll Games using the Second Grade Journeys reading series. 
My kids love playing these games each week to reinforce their story words.

One of my more recent additions is by Miss Giraffe and her Secret Words games. 
I'm really looking forward to using these this year.
It's perfect for beginning of the year assessment.
 I'll be using her blends and vowel teams secret words too!

Now for a FREEBIE to use in your guided reading stations! 
I use it every week when introducing vocabulary words.
Students choose a vocabulary word, identify the part of speech, add or take away ending, use the word in a sentence, draw a picture to remind them of the word meaning.

Now for the best news---TpT has decided to throw a Bonus Sale today for one day only!! 
So my store as well as loads of other sellers have everything marked down!!
My friend Sandy at Sweet Integrations and also one of our CTR bloggers has made this adorable graphic to tell about the sale!! 
Use the code ONEDAY to save up to 28%!!

I hope I've given you a few ideas to use in your classroom this year!
Until next time---Happy word working and don't forget to load up your cart at the TpT Bonus Sale!!


4 Resources in Teaching Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety

18 August 2016 / Leave a Comment
If you're in need resources for teaching digital citizenship and cyber safety, I've provided 4 online resources for you.

Does your district provide a technology plan for teaching Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety? Or, are your teachers responsible for teaching students responsible behavior when using technology? Many teachers have no idea of what and how to weave ethical technology behavior into their curriculum. And, many parents do not monitor their children when they are online at home.


Most Important Times In a Teacher's Day

14 August 2016 / Leave a Comment
Show students that you care for them by greeting your class and saying a good farewell.

Teaching can be overwhelming. There is so much pulling on our time with the students. We have standards, scope and sequences, and directives. We have parents, principals, and school boards. So many demands are put on our time with our students. But what really is the most important part of our school day? What should we focus our time on? What should happen each and every day?

3 Things for Every Teacher's Wishlist

12 August 2016 / Leave a Comment
As the new school year begins for many teachers, we are full of ideas and things on our ever growing lists to make this our best school  year yet! As you head back to school, consider what you hope to accomplish as you step into your classroom and look at those brand new smiling faces staring up at you.  I'd like to share three areas that are vital to success for your school year.

To begin, and this is at the top of my list every year is engagement! When students are engaged, they're learning.  Keeping student focus can be a tricky thing. Lots of things come into play:  home life, content, and the manner in which it is presented just to name a few.  You can't control a child's home life or the content you have to teach.  You can control the delivery though! So don't be afraid to mix it up! Step out of the box and try something new this year!

I am always searching for new and engaging activities to use with students.  Find ways that are different to share the same information.  Chances are if you are bored, students may be too.  So if you are having fun, same rule applies- it shows and they will enjoy it as well!  With Pinterest and the world of many excellent bloggers out there you have an endless supply of ideas.

One fantastic activity that is outside of the box is this Chrysanthemum activity by Beth at Adventures of a Schoolmarm.  This activity incorporates parent involvement and technology. You can view the activity by clicking on the image.

Another thing I enjoy is using Knowledge boxes for my classroom.  The knowledge box allows students to go over content and look at 6 different aspects of the topic and the assemble it and take it home and share with friends and family.  In the past I have used Knowledge Boxes with my third graders for Science and Social Studies. I'm excited to incorporate them into first grade as I slide down this year and used them in phonics as well! You can check out the freebie of the short a Knowledge Box by clicking below.

The options are ENDLESS when it comes to fun and engaging activities!  So get on Pinterest or Facebook and get to clicking. Then watch the learning in your classroom soar to new heights!

The second things on the wishlist this year is encouragement and inspiration!  This is not meant to be cliche, but remember that you may be the only encouraging force in a child's life.  Even on those hard days with the sometimes hard to love children, it's important to keep this in mind.  Remember why you went into the profession and find ways to encourage students and inspire them to try something new.

You can encourage through words, brag boards, and so many more ideas.  One thing I am implementing this year that I think is an awesome way to encourage is brag tags!  There are many places to find brag tags.  I really like Angie Olson's and purchased her Mega Bundle to use.  You can also find a freebie of some of her tags at the image below.

In the past I have used encouragement bracelets as well.  Its great to put something on students arm to give them a chance to look down and see that encouragement. You can find those bracelets for free below.

To read more about encouraging students and communication with children in general you can check out my post on Smart Puppy Learning about Building Student Relationships by clicking here.

Finally, my number three on my wishlist is communication.  In a world that is full of 24 hour ways to connect with anyone and everyone it is important to remember that we have an obligation to connect and communicate with parents, coworkers, and students...that's a BIG TASK! And I believe it is one that many of us are acutely aware of.  So how do we do this?

As we build communication we have to prioritize our ways to communicate.

  • Are you going to use communication calendars in lower grades?
  • Do you want to use the Remind101 app?
  • Do you give parents your home number?
  • Are you emailing a newsletter or sending a paper copy?  Or do you even have one?
SO MANY QUESTIONS.  You ultimately have to find what works for you! But building communication with parents is going to bring success with students.  When we create those positive interactions with parents we build that relationship which helps when we do have to ask  parents to have those tough conversations about their child.

If it is one thing I've learned in fourteen years of teaching, its that you have to do what works for you.  Find a strategy and stick with it. Pick something that you can find consistency with. For me, that is using a calendar to communicate with parents. Its also emails and text messages via my cell phone.

One tool I send home at the beginning of the year is a quick guide to provide a reference to parents of basic information they may need.  I have a free apple version of this Quick Guide below, or there are other paid versions available in my back to school packets here.

To read more tips on Building Relationships with Parents you can click here!

Just as important as building parent relationships is peer relationships.  When we function as a team, we all go farther...this extends to our coworkers.  Open those lines of communication and foster those relationships by sharing and working together.  It will come benefit you greatly to have those relationships on that day that you end up needing their help.  When you have been their helping hand, then you won't feel nearly as bad asking them.  Speaking of helping many of you are looking for helps with Sub Plans?  I ran across this form the other day to help make a checklist for subs and thought I'd throw it in here because its FREE from Adventures of a Schoolmarm!

You can read more about Building Staff Relationships here.

I hope you will add these three things to your wish list this year as well and find great balance and success in your year!

I'm Tonja Irvine of Smart Puppy Learning and I have enjoyed sharing with you today!  What are some other things on your wishlist for the year?


Digital Newsletters Made Easy with Smilebox

10 August 2016 / 5 comments

I adore the start of each new school year.  The classroom is refreshed, a new group of students are raring to learn, routines get tweaked, teachers are re-inspired, and ideas are overflowing from different professional development opportunities that transpire during the summer months.  While all new things is not a reality, it is the perfect time to try new ideas.

A few years ago my instructional team decided that we wanted to re-vamp our newsletter and make parents excited to both receive AND read it.  By 6th grade, parents can feel disconnected from school, and we wanted to find a tool that...
  • made them feel connected to their child's learning.
  • gave them a bird's eye view of students at work.
  • kept them up-to-date on school events.
  • didn't waste paper.

Did you know that there is a FREE digital newsletter that lets you do all of these things?  It is Smilebox's Teacher's Toolbox and you can get a premium membership for FREE as a classroom teacher.

Click play to watch, then follow the quick steps to create your own account and start making awesome FREE digital and printable newsletters.

Click to play this Smilebox newsletter

STEP #1:
  • Click on this link: Smilebox's Teacher's Toolbox
  • Sign up for a free account.
  • They will send you an email with the code and download information shown in the image below.  I received mine in less than 8 hours. 

STEP #2:   
  • Enter your code and follow the directions to download Smilebox to your computer.  

STEP #3:
  • Click on the Teacher's Toolbox to find newsletters and other slideshow tools for your classroom. 
  • While you will use this for a million other things, I am walking you through the newsletter.

Step #4:
  • Click on the Newsletter Image to begin creating your classroom newsletter.
Step #5:
  • Upload any photos or videos and add the information and images you want to share with parents.
  • You can add music, change colors to match your school or classroom theme, and determine how many images you want to add.  (The more the better!)

 Step #6:
  • Finalize and preview your design.  
  • You can import your parent email list and send it (you can even delay your email)
  • Add your newsletter to your parent/class FB group or to your class blog
  • You can print it as well, but my team was always trying to save paper.

You are finished!  I always play the newsletter for the students on Thursdays, the day it is sent out to parents, so they can reflect on their learning, and, most importantly, see who got featured in the newsletter images.  They LOVE it!  

All of your newsletter and other slideshow creations will be saved in the MY CREATIONS tab, so you can always go back and revisit or re-send a newsletter that a parent needs.  You can also begin creating, save, and come back to it at a more convenient time.

If you are struggling with this component of your parent communication, give this a try.  It is the perfect tool to take some stress away from a weekly routine.

All the best this year!

Sight Word Assessments Can Be Fun!?

08 August 2016 / 1 comment
Getting ready for the new school year has taken over my life! Every year I think about how it should be getting easier to set up my classroom and get ready to start a new year!  Nope!  It just never seems to be “easy”!  I always want to “tweak” something a little bit or try something just a little differently!  I guess I want to keep it fresh for me and for the new bunch of sweeties coming to my classroom!  

One thing that has NOT changed is my beginning of the year sight word assessments and overall sight word program!  These assessments drive my sight word program for the year. 

Assessing six year olds at the beginning of the year breaks my heart! Honestly, all I want to do is get to know each other and have fun while we kick off our year together!  I have a word wall in the classroom that is empty except for the most important words my kiddos need to know right away...NAMES!  These will be some of the first words we work with during our first days and weeks together.  

However, we all know the reality is we have to assess our students!  In order to keep it simple, fun and useful, I created a year long sight word system, including assessments, that works for me. Now I don't know about you, but I know that I won’t follow through with anything that is too overwhelming, so this is not!  

I try to present it to students like a game.  I show students my box of color coded sight word cards and tell them, "I just need to see where you are going to start, so just read the words you know."   It seems a little less intimidating, I think.  They read the words they can and then I simply hand them a card to keep in their book box.  They don't need to know that I recorded their mistakes and kept a record!  Eventually they may know this, but to get started I keep it low key!  Once I know a child's level, it is super easy to give them appropriate practice tools in the form of GAMES!

This system allows students to work on the words that they need to, while reviewing all words throughout the year! I’ve been using this system for years and I love how easy it is to keep track of my students' progress and provide levelized practice!  

Once I know a little more about my students, I'm ready to differentiate and get my students involved in play!  That's right, we play hard and learn lots!   Here are some samples of the fun we have while we practice our high frequency words!

We build our words with letter tiles!

We search for sight words in text.  We work with poetry, books, big books, posters, you name it!

We play card games like Go Fish, Uno, and Memory! The game above is practicing silent e words.

My grade level team uses the Dolch list.  We divided the first 200 words into 10 lists of 20.  Each week we focus instruction and word work around 5 of words.  Each week we assess students on those 5 words.  However, this system also allows us to individualize instruction.  After assessing students at the beginning of the year, we assign students to the appropriate list.  Individual assessments are given each week on Friday.   

I like to fit in sight word practice and review any chance I get!  Morning meetings, transitions, sponge activities, "I have, who has?", you name it!  

Singing sight words is one of my favorite ways to practice throughout the day!  Long ago, I attend the Northern California Kindergarten conference and learned this little trick for singing any sight word using familiar tunes!  I've used it ever since!  Feel free to download this "cheat sheet" and use it in your class!

If this sounds like something that could help you in your classroom, take a look! This is it!  Everything you will need to run your own classroom sight word program!  Word cards, word mats, weekly assessments, progress monitoring assessment sheet, and word work practice games!

Weekly assessment sheets for all words!

I print each list on a specific color and laminate.  These word mats are perfect for small group games and independent or partner practice. 

This is always a favorite game in my class!  I created enough word mats to include all of the first 200 Dolch words!

I hope this offered some ideas for you in your own classroom!  Here's to a great new year!!


How to Make Your Students into Authors Without Tears or Hair Loss

06 August 2016 / Leave a Comment
Turn your students into authors without tears or hair loss using the Writing Fix mentor text lessons for creative and sound instruction.

Just look at the energized and enthusiastic appearance of this young writer! Kids LOVE sharing their work with others. They love the pride of a finished product showcased for all to see, and they love the positive feedback they receive when someone notices what great work they've put together. We all know that quality writing (like reading, basketball, and art) takes practice, but writing can be LOTS of fun both for teachers and students if you find interesting ways to teach, model, and practice. Today, I'd like to share with you a WONDERFUL WEBSITE called The Writing Fix. You will be so glad you found this post if you aren't familiar with it already. 

Counting Words: An Important Step in Early Reading

04 August 2016 / Leave a Comment
Young students need a great deal of phonemic awareness before reading can really begin. Counting words is an easy strategy to help students begin to see how sentences work.

As I begin another year with the kindergarten students, I always have to remember to start out with many phonemic awareness activities. So many times we want to jump in and start them off reading, without giving them the tools they need for success. Before children can read, they have to understand that sounds make words, and they all go together. Phonemic awareness is not phonics, but it is the understanding of the sounds that words make and being able to manipulate them.


3 Things you Must Do on the First Day of School

02 August 2016 / 1 comment
Three things you must do on the first day for a successful school year.
It's almost time for me to head back to school, and I'm starting to plan my first day activities. The first day sets the tone for the rest of your year, so it's important to do three main things.
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